Staff and patients remain uncertain about the future of Sitka Community Hospital, which has been a focal point of Assembly discussion all year. Tonight, the Assembly will review a request for proposal (RFP) that could solicit outside partners for management ideas. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The Sitka Assembly is holding a special meeting tonight (12-105-17) to take up a conversation about Sitka Community Hospital. On the agenda is reviewing a draft of an RFP, or request for proposal, for management solutions.

Mayor Matthew Hunter says that in looking for a new model for the hospital, the Assembly wants to cast a wide net.

“Anything from an outright sale to a merger, to a sale, to an affiliation, or formation of a non-profit,” Hunter noted. “Basically, we want to get anyone who’s interested in healthcare in Sitka to let us know what the options are because we’re sort of that point where we’ve invested enough time, we need to make sure whatever course we take is the right one. We don’t need to drag anyone through this process again in the future.”

This process began over a year ago, when Sitka’s two hospitals began talking about collaboration. When talks fell apart, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium made a proposal for merger in the spring. Sitka Community Hospital, which is now operating in the black, sought continued independence with possible changes to its healthcare services around obstetrics, surgery, and the clinic. Outside consultants weighed in: Stroudwater Associates said the hospital must adapt, ECG Management Consultants concluded it should merge. And when it comes to paying into the state pension fund for hospital employees, the city learned they’re on the hook for $35 million dollars — a game changer for any potential sale.

Amid the flurry of options, the Assembly decided to take a step back and in July, directed city attorney Brian Hanson to draft the RFP they’ll examine tonight. As a work product of the city attorney, it belongs to the city and has not been released for public discussion.

In order for that to happen, Hunter said the Assembly has to first waive their attorney/client privilege. If they do not, they’ll enter executive session to discuss the matter. “It’s my hope that we can avoid an executive session and all agree that it’s probably in the best interest of Sitkans that we are as open as possible in this process,” Hunter said.

In reviewing a draft of an RFP for Sitka Community Hospital, the Sitka Assembly has three options. Each of these options requires a majority vote of 4 assembly members to go into effect. The RFP has not been made public since it is a work document of city attorney Brian Hanson and protected by attorney-client privilege.

The Assembly could pursue a combination of the two: enter executive session to discuss the RFP privately, then reconvene in regular session and waive their attorney-client privilege to discuss the matter publicly. A motion clarifying these three options was released by the city this morning (Possible motions draft RFP).

The Sitka Assembly’s special meeting will begin at 6 p.m. tonight in Harrigan Centennial Hall.